How to be a Great Leader with Ken Eslick
By Yuresh Shayzer
September 19, 2023
Today's guest is Ken Eslick, someone who's achieved remarkable success, including making the Inc 5000 list this year. He's excelled in the corporate world, climbed the leadership ladder, and trained countless leaders globally. What sets him apart is his willingness to share a story of imperfection. You might wonder, how does this connect with someone who's a top-notch trainer? Well, Ken's journey has taken him through challenging times behind the scenes, despite his external success. Today, he's here to candidly discuss these experiences, extracting valuable lessons we can all apply to our lives.
[1:55] Why should I listen to you?
Why you might find value in listening to me is because I've delved into the dark work, and I can share insights gained from elevating one's identity for peak performance.
[3:40] Do you mind sharing some of your darkest moments?
I find it amusing because the darkest moments often stem from ongoing issues, not isolated events you can neatly package and move past. It's when these issues steer your identity away from who you truly are that things become challenging. Let me illustrate this with my personal experience. As a child, my family grappled with problems like addiction and my mother's suicidal tendencies. I turned to alcohol, and to some extent, drugs, as a coping mechanism, and this pattern persisted for years. People with addictive tendencies often become adept at managing their vices to maintain them in their lives. When people think of substance abuse problems, they tend to envision someone who has lost everything. However, it's more about the erosion of your potential self. Do we need to hit rock bottom to rediscover our true selves? I'm framing this within my context of alcohol addiction, but addiction can manifest in various forms like food, behavior, anger, or anything that pulls you away from your core values and purpose.
[7:28] What was the catalyst for your success?
Well, you and I crossed paths back in 2018 or 2019 at Brendon Burchard's Influencer event. At that time, I was already on the path to sobriety, but a few years earlier, my journey into personal development started with Tony Robbins. The reason I ventured into this field was that life wasn't unfolding the way I expected, so I thought personal development might hold the answer. While it did help in some aspects, I was still sidestepping a significant issue: my drinking problem. In 2017, I was about to take on a leadership role in Tony Robbins' environment, attending a course and meeting fellow ex-military individuals the night before the program. I got heavily intoxicated. The morning after, I woke up with a profound sense of misalignment with my integrity and ethics. It felt awful, like the aftermath of telling a small lie but on a much grander scale. I couldn't stand it any longer and gave myself an ultimatum: address this issue head-on or walk away. I realized that pursuing a leadership role while battling alcoholism couldn't coexist. So, that marked the beginning of my journey to sobriety. I reached out to a friend in Alcoholics Anonymous, and that moment served as a clear catalyst, even though there were other significant moments before. It's crucial to note that readiness varies for each individual. You may not be ready until you hit that point where change becomes a non-negotiable choice.
[11:50] How did you know you were ready?
The turning point for me came when I finally had enough leverage on myself. In the Tony Robbins community, we often discuss the "Dickens Process," which draws inspiration from Charles Dickens's "A Christmas Carol." It's a process of envisioning the potential consequences of continuing with one's current behaviors. You start to ask yourself, "What if I keep going down this path?" and, more importantly, "What does that mean for my children and my family?" During that period, I was overwhelmed, though I didn't initially label it as fear. Looking back, I can see it was pure fear. I was terrified, lost, and uncertain about my future. In such a mindset, abundance and success were impossible to attain. So, while it's challenging to pinpoint a single moment, it was a culmination of factors that pushed me toward change. When the decision to change became unmistakably clear, it was like my negative behaviors had awakened my soul. My soul essentially said, "Enough is enough. I'm taking charge now." This decision was relatively straightforward, but the journey of recovery wasn't. However, making that initial choice was the pivotal step, even if the process that followed wasn't always easy.
[13:15] What was the journey for you to get to where you are right now?
Personal transformation isn't limited to battling addiction; it encompasses aligning your actions with your goals. Even if someone isn't struggling with addiction, they may have behaviors conflicting with their aspirations, creating inner turmoil, akin to being two different people. As I embraced positive changes, I became acutely aware of my negative behaviors, intensifying that internal conflict. It felt like standing at a crossroads, pondering which path to take. Removing a negative habit necessitates substituting it with a constructive one—akin to smokers replacing cigarettes with healthier activities to prevent relapse. I was fortunate to have certain positive aspects in place when I resolved to change—supportive family and reasonable physical fitness. These formed a sturdy foundation. Surprisingly, I initially anticipated immediate rewards from the universe for my decision to change. However, when these rewards didn't materialize as swiftly as expected, I faced frustration. I realized that the decision to change was just the start; the true transformation required diligent work and perseverance.
[25:38] What are some of the actions you took?
Transitioning from a scarcity mindset, which convinces us that we lack the resources to give, to one of abundance is truly transformative. Acknowledging that you possess something valuable to offer, even if it's your time or energy, sends a powerful message to your brain that you have plenty to share. Initially, I expected immediate rewards when I committed to change, but they didn't materialize right away. Instead, I had inadvertently replaced my old habits with self-pity, another unproductive state. However, as I redirected my time and energy towards serving others, a gradual transformation began. It wasn't an instant overhaul, but over time, the rewards accumulated, creating a positive cycle of abundance and contribution. Service alone isn't the complete solution, but it complements the inner work we do on ourselves. It's about finding a balance where you're brimming with positivity and ready to share it with the world. Ultimately, when you offer value to the world, it responds with value in various forms—be it monetary gain, time, love, or appreciation. Regarding my life today, it's crucial to share the positives without any sense of boasting. By doing so, we help others see the incredible possibilities that lie beyond their current challenges. My life has undergone a remarkable transformation into a journey characterized by growth and abundance.
[33:00] What out-of-character actions did you take to transition into a higher version of yourself or your new, more conscious identity?
Life often repeats its lessons until we grasp them. My brightest moments are linked to service. I coach people pro bono, shifting from scarcity to abundance by recognizing that giving, even time, signals abundance to our brains. I once expected instant rewards for choosing change, but they didn't come, partly due to inaction and replacing my old habits with self-pity. Yet, when I redirected my energy toward abundance, contribution, and service, small victories accumulated. In recent years, they've grown into something remarkable.
[41:46] What promise did God make to the world when he created you?
Through my leadership, I would shape a path that may not always be straightforward but aims to make the world a better place.
[23:30-23:35] If you don't find proof of who you are, your brain finds proof of who you are.
[26:24-26:28] If you think you don't have enough, you will have nothing to give to others
How to connect with Ken Eslick